Ron Galella with foreword by Anthony Haden-Guest and introduction by Michael Musto
In these times when we’re gleefully remixing our retros, leggings (oh, and oversized shirts) which you’ll recall from the mid ’80s, ’60s a-line dresses, and a bit of Victoriana thrown in for good measure, it’s worthwhile to do a little recollecting/research into the looks as first worn. So the mod boxy little frocks I’ve been coveting were first worn with boxy heels and kind-of bubbled short hairdos, teased at the crown.
But because I was looking at the massive array of American Apparel leggings today, and because they won’t seem to go away (and maybe secretly I don’t want them to), the 1984 photo of singer Laura Branigan (“Gloria!”) in the photo book Disco Years by Ron Galella, is the look of the moment. Crouched down over her pumps and spandex leggings (technically footless tights, I think), Branigan turns right to look at the camera, her wild Brooke Shields eyebrows above her freckled nose. Over the leggings she wears a sequined shirt belted by a wide snake belt. Kind of looking like a pointier Stockard Channing, Branigan has just brought down the house at a club in Atlanta. It’s one of the few photos in the book that isn’t taken in New York, at or outside Studio 54, at Xenon or Area.
A step away from these leggings are the shiny stretch pants Liza Minelli wears dancing at New York Disco in 1977 with what must be a Halston white batwing tunic. Marisa Berenson, yes is likely in costume here, in those high-waist jeans for Margaux Hemingway’s Western party, but this photo is still an argument for the rising denim waistline.
Most of the photos in this compendium of snaps are strange, incidental action shots. They are stars and exhibitionist oddballs, unposed, caught on the fly. Stretching from the ’70s to early ’80s, the photos do capture an era (Jimmy McNichol in a Saturday Night Fever white three-piece suit, Diane von Furstenberg so lovely in 1972, picture after picture of Grace Jones, Cher in feathersï¿½ the sensational International Velvet is worth the price of the book alone). Oh, and there’s a photo of Sting with a mustache.
Unlike many nostalgic tomes, the moments this book captures do not make for a best-of-times argument (Liz Taylor is not at her best, but Bianca Jagger looks fantastic throughout). The vibe of many of the photos is alternately frenzied or fucked up. As Galella himself puts it, he and the other paparazzi were there to record the “life of the party” and what a party it was.
As a fashion sourcebook (because that’s the way I’m considering it at the moment), it’s not perfect. But that’s Nico on the trampoline at the disco, and so you have to look.